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Distance learning – studying for a QS degree when you have a full time career
The development of a professional and expert team takes time and commitment. As Sam approaches the end of his final year, he takes a look at the challenges and benefits of combining a full time career with a distance learning degree.
Over the four years I have been with Evolution5, I have also been completing my undergraduate Quantity Surveying degree with University College of Estate Management (UCEM). It’s been a good experience and one I would recommend to others in the industry, but with caution.
Completing a distance learning degree puts a pretty big strain on your shoulders.
If work is busy it is easy for coursework and assignments to take a back seat whilst the focus is on meeting client deadlines and maximising fee income. As a result you can easily be in the position where you lose huge chunks of your time at weekends and evenings to catch up.
I am fortunate that my employers, depending on workload, let me complete assignments at work. This, together with the support of my colleagues has helped me tremendously. Especially, being able to draw on a the experience around me helps if I struggle to understand a question. They also proof read my final submissions and offer some rather helpful grammar tips in case my English isn’t quite on point.
This year has been time for me to complete my dissertation. So far the experience I have gained whilst working, and the input from my colleagues has had a huge impact. Not only has my work, and my exposure within the company, affected my choice of subject but when when my final dissertation submission is due I will be able to draw on that experience to fully understand, analyse and interpret my questionnaire responses and, in some cases, it may also help with my interviews.
Although I am studying via a distance learning degree course, there have been opportunities to attend lectures. Attendance was usually fairly low when I did attend lectures and UCEM have since changed their delivery model and provide all learning materials and support, via supported online learning. Alongside lectures I attended a number of webinars and am provided with excellent teaching materials and the books supplied as part of the course. As a result I don’t think there have been any noticeable problems arising from the lack of face to face class time.
Like many universities, UCEM has extensive online learning facilities and the lecturers are very responsive within the online forums. This means if students have any questions they can be posed in a forum visible to all of the students on the course. Similar to live classroom environments, it isn’t uncommon for other people’s questions to draw attention to a point, or points, that you didn’t fully understand yourself!
My experience with UCEM has been fantastic so far. Because I am working and studying I benefit from four deadline extensions per year. This is really handy and has been really helpful when ‘real’ work has meant that my assignments have had to take a back-seat from time to time.
I would highly recommend the distance learning route if you are looking at moving into the profession.. or if you already are in the profession but need, or want, a formal qualification. It’s not an easy option. In some ways it is far more challenging than studying full time. However, knowing that the theory of the course is underpinned by hands-on, practical experience has, in my opinion been highly beneficial to me.
**Although this programme is no longer run as a distance learning programme, it has been transformed into the current BSc Quantity Surveying programme. More information about the new offer can be found here.